Twin Hills Gumbo Hike

Twin Hills Gumbo Hike March 21, 2015       by  Allison McGee

On the second day of spring, the temp was still chilly but the ground was clear of snow. As hike participants arrived it was evident that people were eager to be outside and shake off the winter cabin fever.

To make introductions among the 14 of us, our Volunteer Trip Leader David Bennett from Venture Outdoors asked us each to tell about a food that reminded us of home. The diversity of our group was revealed as each shared memories of Korean, Polish, Taiwanese, Italian and Southern Appalachian cooking… some very different upbringings, but at the same time a common deep connection that family recipes give us to our childhood.

And along the lines of connection, it was also part of the story of the Mt Lebanon Nature Conservancy and their role in local passive use parks in collaboration with municipal resources as well as leveraging volunteers to maintain and improve the parks for the community’s use. Trail maintenance and invasive abatement is a key activity. There is also a focus on encouraging enjoyment and appreciation of the parks through events such as School in the Park. Conducted annually for over 20 years, it was designed to be an enrichment program for third graders and to incorporate the conservancy’s goal of teaching the interrelatedness of all living things.

We were tracking through some Spring mud, which slowed our progress at times. But hikers enjoyed the leisurely pace and come good conversation with their newly discovered common interests. We went through many of the well maintained trails in the 25 acre park, then we exited and made way to my home for steaming bowls of delicious gumbo, along with French bread and dessert. A warming fire in the fire pit took the last bit of chill off the morning coolness as we enjoyed a day that was beginning its climb into the mid 50’s.

It was a morning of finding community with others, and also learning about a park that was new to many participants. We heard of how community involvement has lovingly transformed and maintained the park. We heard about foxes and Cooper Hawks that make their home there. Our day was energized by newly made friends and delicious food. Connections and collaboration, was the theme of the day and this joint Venture Outdoors and Mt Lebanon Nature Conservancy hike may become a new tradition.

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Autumn Newsletter


The Autumn newsletter highlights much of the work which occurred throughout 2014. We hope you find it interesting and informative. We’d like to thank our President Tom Schevtchuk for the many hours spent writing and editing this publication.

MLNC Newsletter Autumn 2014 web

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Holiday for the Birds

Holiday for the Birds

 10 am, Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mt. Lebanon Public Library, Castle Shannon Blvd.

Sponsored by the

Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy


In cooperation with Mt. Lebanon Public Library

Pre-schoolers (ages 3 to 6 years) will make a biodegradable bird feeder for their yard, share a story, and learn about local birds and wild animals with naturalist Verna McGinley.

This event is limited to 25 children. Please preregister at 412-341-7307 or

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Spring 2014 Newsletter

Here is the most recent newsletter from the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy. In it you’ll find lots of information about our ongoing projects; as well as trail maps of our passive-use parks created by Jonathan Farrell.

Many thanks to our president,Thomas Schevtchuk, for putting it all together.

MLNC Newsletter Spring 2014

You’ll also note that we’ve recently added the Bird Counts from 2013 to our website, and an informative guide to the trees of Mt. Lebanon, written by Kenton McElhatton in 1991. Both can be found under their respective tabs in the header above.





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Annual Meeting to Feature Bill Metzger, Rail Trail Expert

The Annual Meeting of the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy will be held on November 10, 2013 at the Mt. Lebanon Library from 2 to 4 PM. The program is entitled “True Tales of Rail Trails”

Guest speaker will be Bill Metzger, founding member of the Montour Trail Council and the Allegheny Trail Alliance. He is also the author of The Great Allegheny Passage Companion, a guidebook to the trail. He has been involved with the Rails to Trails program since its inception. His talk will be filled with folksy tales about how Rails to Trails started, how it grew, and a lot of great photos of the trail.

A former Mt. Lebanon resident, Bill Metzger has been a working railroader, a touring bicyclist, and a freelance photographer whose work has appeared in numerous publications. He resides in Confluence, Pennsylvania with his wife, Pam, and two cats. He bikes about 2,000 miles a year.

This program is free. Sponsored by the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy. All are welcome. Refreshments will be served.

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Board Offers Proposed Modifications to ByLaws

During board meetings over the past year, it was noted that the Corporation By-Laws had not been updated since 1995. With this in mind, in the spring of 2013 a committee was formed to review the by-laws and make recommendations for revisions. The group met throughout the summer and spent many hours examining the document line-by-line. Their recommended modifications were presented to the rest of the board at our September meeting, and were approved by an official vote of the board. The modifications will now be voted upon by the regular membership at the Annual Meeting in November. Most of the modifications are minor and remove confusing or conflicting wording, or strengthen current Articles of Incorporation. Perhaps the most noticeable change is a simplification of the Mission Statement. The proposed statement now reads “The purpose of the Corporation is to promote the enhancement, growth and careful use of Mt. Lebanon’s green spaces, and to foster an appreciation of and respect for the environment.”  The committee consisted of Pam Burrett, chair; Katie Anderson; Louanne Baily; Mike Irwin; and Tom Schevtchuk. They were assisted by attorney James Webster. The Board is grateful to these individuals for their time and effort. The complete changes can be found on the linked document. Additions to wording are noted in red, and deletions are noted by strike-through edits.



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Tree Planters Needed!

The MLNC has been awarded a tree grant from Tree Vitalize, in conjunction with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.  We will be planting 25 new trees with Tree Vitalize in Spalding Circle. This park is bounded by Washington Road, Longuevue Drive and Woodhaven Drive. The park has lost numerous mature trees in recent years, and has dying ash trees that will be removed soon. Recognizing this, we prepared a renewal plan a few years ago and shared it with the municipality. With municipal budgets tight, we applied for this grant last summer, and were awarded trees just a few weeks ago.

This efforts depends on volunteer assistance, so please consider helping.

Pre-Registration is required with the Western PA Conservancy at Also send us a note at so we know whom to expect. If you cannot help that day but would like to contribute, we are looking for donations of sustenance for the workers-coffee, bagels, snacks, etc. Drop us a line and let us know how you’d like to contribute. We have a nice mix of native trees coming, including yellowwood, Kentucky coffeetree, sourwood, black gum, bald cypress, hybrid elm and bur oak. All tools, materials and training will be provided. We need 25-40 people, so spread the word! And consider joining the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy this year so we can do more for our beautiful parks in the future!   

 Thank you!


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Trail Mapping Underway

Trails are being mapped in the Mt. Lebanon Parks, thanks to the efforts of Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy volunteers. The effort is due to the initiative of Jonathan Farrell, a resident who is an environmental consultant with Civil and Environmental Consultants, Inc. He approached the Conservancy last spring and asked how he could help, and has since worked on a number of projects with us. He is being assisted by Mark Maguire and Chris Gregory Phillips, who also work at CEC, Inc.  Their employer is providing the use of the GPS unit and also the mapping software. They are also mapping features such as notable trees, springs and streams, and public amenities such as shelters and toilets. Also assisting are board members Jim Phillips and Ron Block. When complete, the data will be shared with the Mt. Lebanon Municipality GIS Department, and will make trail monitoring and improvement easier and more accurate.   Once the data has been  edited and refined, we hope to make trail maps available to residents. We are grateful for these efforts!

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Fall Tree Planting 2012

In October of 2012 the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy undertook restoration work in Bird Park and in Twin Hills Trails Park. Trees and shrubs were planted in areas formerly overrun with bittersweet and knotweed.The invasives have been removed over the past two years, and it was decided that there was enough progress in the control efforts to begin restoring the canopy. Tree species included Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Red Oak(Quercus rubra), Silver Maple (acer saccharinum), and Red Maple (Acer rubrum), including varieties ‘October Glory’, ‘Autumn Blaze’ and ‘Red Sunset’.

Shrubs included Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) and raspberry (Rubus spp). Two dozen trees and shrubs were planted in the parks. They were then staked and fenced to prevent damage from animal browsing and rubbing.

In early November, a bushel of tree nuts was planted in the parks. Nuts were collected from old and impressive specimens in North Park, South Park and Carnegie Park. Species included walnut, red oak, bur oak, black oak, shagbark hickory and osage orange.

Thanks to Carrie Andre, Angie Phares, Ron Block and Jonathan and Leo Farrell for planting assistance!

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The Wonders of Seeds

Reprinted from Mt. Lebanon Magazine  September 2012

By Ron Block and Deborah Larson

We can walk, drive, or fly to get from place to place, but have you ever considered how a plant can turn up in new territory? The parents don’t move, but the progeny can spread far and wide. A walk this fall in one of Mt. Lebanon’s three passive-use parks-Bird Park, Twin Hills Trails and Robb Hollow-could be a wonderful opportunity to observe the different ways seeds are dispersed.

For many plants, wind power is the method of choice. The seed will be light, and may come equipped with a parachute that allows the wind to carry the seed far away from the parent plant. Since the wind can be fickle and may drop the seed in unfavorable conditions, these plants-milkweed, cottonwood, dandelions, thistle and fireweed, for example- tend to produce an abundance of seeds. Also very effective are the winged seeds of the maple and the ash, which spike rotors and can be carried far from the shade of the parent plant. These seeds will be very dry before they fall, making them light and able to travel good distances.

Some plants produce fruits that are eaten by animals and birds. The fruit is ingested, and the seed, protected by its seed coat, passes unharmed through the digestive tract to be deposited at a distance from the parent plant, with the bonus of added fertilizer. Some such plants are blackberry and black raspberry, pokeweed  and cherry, as well as other less-desirable plants such as poison ivy and bittersweet. These often appear in yards at random…. left by a passing bird, stopping to rest on a post or tree.

Squirrels, chipmunks, and other hoarding animals and birds aid by planting seeds. Their efforts to hide edible nuts and seeds for later use, which are then forgotten, can end up creating new trees such as oak and hickory.

Yet another method is for a seed to hitch a ride by attaching to fur, feathers or clothing. Many plants produce burrs which cling to surfaces that come in contact with them. Burrs come in many different shapes and sizes, from the large round burr of burdock, which inspired the invention of Velcro, to the thin double-pointed achene of the bur-marigold, also known as beggar’s-ticks or sticktight. These cling to clothing and will ride with you or your dog back to your yard.

Others have small seed that can lodge in shoes or the paws of animals. The Native Americans called broadleaf plantain “white man’s footprint” , because its ability to thrive in compacted and disturbed soils made it an unmistakable sign that the settlers had arrived. Each plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds, which ensured this non-native a quick spread across the land.

Some plants produce seed pods which burst open explosively and disperse seeds by flinging them far from the parent plant. Jewelweed is such a plant and grows extensively in our parks. Its other name, “touch-me-not”, refers to this ability to send a seed several feet away when mature. Another is hairy bitttercress, which explodes when the ripe seedheads are bumped.

Other plants let gravity do the work, by growing along streambanks. Often these plants grow over the banks, and their small, light seed can float many miles downstream until they lodge in fertile areas, particularly after floods. Willows and birches are two larger plants employing this method, while foxglove is a smaller one. A more problematic plant is the invasive Japanese Knotweed, which can be found crowding watercourses throughout the region.

After a seed has found a favorable territory in which to establish with less competition, it must often then survive for many months until growing conditions are once again favorable. By examining seeds closely one can see the hard protective coat which surrounds the embryo and also the food storage tissue, or endosperm.This three-layer structure helps ensure winter survival.

We encourage you to visit your local parks this fall, and see how many of the methods of seed transport you can discover.

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